Thursday, July 28, 2011

You Can Take a Child to Potty, But You Can't Make Her Pee

So, I like to be the boss.  I am a bit of a control freak.  Once you've read me a while, you will laugh until you cry, and maybe pee just a little, about how big of an understatement that just was.

Hedgehog potty trained just fine.  She was on schedule, and relatively obedient, so I was highly relieved that we had passed this hurdle without too much ado.

However, as a kindergartner, we started having potty issues with her.  She started being afraid of public potties.  She hated automatic flushes, didn't like anything that was not standard white, and if the potty didn't touch the floor, that was a problem too.

We went on a long driving vacation with the mother-in-law, the Belle Mère, and every time we needed to go to a public restroom, I had to drag her, kicking, flailing and screaming into the stall.  There is NO horror quite like feeling you've failed as a parent in front of the mother-in-law.  I held her in my lap and let her pee through my legs on more than one occasion, and had to let her leave the bathroom, not just the stall, before I could flush the potty.

We tried everything.  We tried being tough with her, we tried taking her on a "potty tour", to acquaint her with lots of different kinds of potties, we tried making sure that she pottied before we left the house, and we even tried earmuffs, but the problem persists.  She still hates public potties.  And now, it's not just the look or sound of the potties, when we went to a recent baseball game, she "held it" for 10 1/2 hours because the potties at the M.L.B. park smelled bad!

So many times, I will see a undesirable behavior in someone else's child and think "I wouldn't allow that", but the fact is, there are just a bunch of things in parenting that we can't really control.  There are battles that she will have to fight, that I can't win for her.  Her potty issues, have to be hers, not mine.  This is something that I cannot be the boss of.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What Are We Waiting For?

While we were cleaning out my late grandmother's house (more about that later, maybe, still too painful), my aunt was wearing my grandmother's perfume.  It smelled just like her, and it made me tear up.  When I mentioned it to her, she said "Life's too short to save your good perfume".  That has really stuck with me.

When my mother called to asked if I wanted my late grandmother's china, I asked her "Don't you want it?" and was SHOCKED when she said she had china.  I have never eaten on china at my mother's house, or ever even seen it displayed.

As I cleaned out and reorganized my table linens today, I came across some tea towels my other grandmother embroidered for me for my wedding.  I've never used them, never even had them out in my kitchen.  I put one out today.

While on the phone with a sister-in-law (the Tall One) we were talking about food for an upcoming family event and she mentioned a dish that we both love.  I was so excited to hear that we were having it and she exclaimed "Why do we save all the good recipes for the special occasions?"

It feels like God is trying to tell me something.  This life goes by so quickly, and the time since I had the girls has flown so fast that it makes my head spin, yet, so often I hold back the "great", the "special" and the "expensive" and never enjoy them.  Why do we do this?  I'm going to stop.  So, from here on out, I'm going to eat asparagus sometimes on a yucky Tuesday.  Occasionally, I'm going to break out the china for my family, not just for guests.  And I'm going to smell great!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Today we went to a Major League Baseball game, the nephews, the girls, the Engineer and I.  The last time I went to a MLB game was more than a decade ago.  I was not expecting to enjoy it.  I went just because the Engineer could not take the girls to the restroom and I worry about safety in a place as large as the ballpark.  But, it was just lovely.  We had a great time.  Seriously!  Highlights included:
  • we sat in the all-you-can-eat section, so we stuffed ourselves with popcorn, nachos, peanuts, hot dogs and sodas
  • we sang "take me out to the ball game"
  • we watched the kiss cam
  • we were appropriately "into" the game, that our team eventually won, in the bottom of the 11th inning!
  • Hedgehog refused to use the "stinky" restrooms, and had to "hold it" all day
  • Rascal dumped over and entire soda
  • we shelled our peanuts and threw the shells on the floor
  • stood and sang the national anthem
  • cheered like maniacs at every hit
  • took a bazillion pictures
It really wasn't that unusual of a day, for a day at the ballpark.  But, I'm hoping, that today is the kind of thing that they'll remember.  I think, too often, the memories I provide on a day-to-day basis are of me saying:
  • pick up your shoes
  • keep your hands to yourself
  • why are there socks on my couch?
  • get your hands out of your mouth
  • clean up your mess
  • go get a bath
  • use our inside voice
  • no
  • because I said so
  • that is not something we cry about
  • go get a bath, NOW
And I know, that these things are necessary to raise adults that have clean houses, good manners, good hygiene, etc., but I really hope, and really pray, that when they are grown, they'll remember that I tried to have fun with them too.  I hope they'll look back and realize that I wanted to enjoy them, and not just raise them.  And I hope that I'll be mindful enough to enjoy them, not just raise them.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Over the Baby Blues

One of my sisters-in-law (The Coach) and her husband (The Bald Coach) have just had a baby.  She's a gorgeous, fat, smiley baby and I adore my newest little niece.  During family vacation, I walked and bounced and cooed with and over her little 1-month-old self.  And when she cried for too long, I handed her back to her parents with a smile.  It hasn't always been so simple with me and babies.

On the one hand, my babies nearly killed me.  Both of them had colic, so the Engineer would come home to me crying along with our baby.  With Monkey, it was worse, a crying mommy, toddler and baby.  And then, after she outgrew colic, she started having ear infections, like every 2 weeks.  It was a miserable time It is a wonder the poor Engineer didn't run for the hills when they were babies.  He slept many a night on our couch with an infant on his chest, just to give me a few hours of rest.

BUT, both Hedgehog and Monkey are girls.  Lovely, frilly, sparkly little girls, and I had always wanted boys.  Little miniature Engineers to carry on the family name.  I had visions of the Engineer playing catch with him in the front yard, and thought about them hunting and fishing together.  But, you can't just put in an order for a boy baby, and we didn't want to keep trying indefinitely, so I got my tubes tied after Monkey.

Some time during my sleep deprived, crying baby Monkey fog, Jeff said to one of the in-laws that we'd just adopt if we wanted a boy.  I latched on to the idea like a drowning person grabs on to a boat.  And for another year, I dreamed of going and picking me out a little boy to take home with us.  The in-laws weren't excited and even my own parents had some pretty old-school ideas about adoption.  So, we both prayed, and I was sure I would be able to pray the Engineer into going along with my plan.  God, and the Engineer, however, were not on board. 

And I was MAD.  I could not fathom why the answer was no.  It felt as if God and the Engineer were being unloving by denying me a son.  Every friend who had a new son was a fresh pain in my heart.  Being happy for pregnant friends was difficult for me.

Much, much later, my sister got a divorce.  And her substance abuse problem resurfaced.  And my nephews went to live with my parents.  The nephews now spend most of their school holidays at our house.  And I thank God that we didn't adopt, that we have a spare room in our house for these two little guys, who look nothing like the Engineer but that we have the privilege of helping to grow up.

So now, babies make me happy again.  I can trust God a tiny bit more, now that I can see that the "no" was just part of the plan.  I don't need a baby any more to convince me that I am loved.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why I Wasn't At the Meeting

I am sorry, dear Pastor and church family for not attending this month's meeting, I was detained by a number of unforeseeable events. It started like this:

My brother-in-law announced his engagement back last May. She's a lovely girl, they seem very happy, so, naturally, we're very excited. The wedding date was set for January. She asked my daughters to be flower girls. They were delighted. We bought dresses. They were $150 each. The wedding date was then moved to April, and then "sometime this summer", and well, it is now June and there is no date set, just not going to be this summer.

So, at the urging of some of the 95 in-laws, I called the Bridal Sh*t Palace and ask if the dresses can be returned for store credit. After a series of questions, they say yes. I arrange to meet some of the in-laws in the same town as Bridal Sh*t Palace (a 2 hour drive away) and pack up the kids, the nephews, the dresses and myself.

We arrived at BSP to discover that they don't open at the normal boutique hour of 10 a.m., but instead at 11. Annoying. Regardless, we head across town to visit the zoo with the in-laws. ALL of my nieces and nephews are there, and it is just my mother-in-law and I to supervise all of them. It was, um, an adventure.

We had a hugely overpriced lunch at the zoo, and then proceeded back to BSP, where they unceremoniously inform me that there is NO WAY they can possibly take it back, and they cannot IMAGINE who told me that on the phone. I asked to speak to someone else and I am told that they can EMAIL customer service and I am welcome to wait for someone from customer service to call them back. With the 4 kids. Who are all smelling of duck food pellets and sweat from running around the zoo. In a bridal boutique. Uh. Sure...sounds like fun.

Instead, we went to the park, the one with the spray pad. The kids had fun, and I got a call from BSP informing me that Customer Service has called and said "NO".   There was a storm blowing in, so we decided it was about time to go. I gave the keys to Handsome so that he and the other 3 kids can get the towels out of the trunk of the car, and walked over just in time to see him slam the trunk with the keys inside. And then it started raining, HARD.

I called the Engineer and he looked up a locksmith on the Internet for me to call. They assured me that it would only be a 25 minute wait, in the rain, for them to get there.

When they arrived, they charged me $10 more than we had discussed on the phone.

When we finally got on the road, for the two-hour drive home, the kids were getting hungry and cranky, but there was no money to eat out because I'd had to pay the locksmith, so I sped along, trying to get back to town in time for the meeting, until it starting hailing. Then, I just pulled over and cried.

And that I why I didn't come to the meeting.  Thanks for noticing I wasn't there.
Linking up to Mama Kat's. This is writing prompt #3.) A bad day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What Goes Around....

A post your mom would write if your mom wrote posts, yes, yet another prompt from Mama Kat's. They were just all so good this week that I just wanted to keep writing... that's a good thing, I think.

To my eldest daughter:
It is so much fun to watch you parent. I smile, not just because your children are so adorable, so precious and so much fun, but also because payback's a bitch!

Every time you call to talk about stubborn, eye-rolling, door slamming children and I don't laugh or say "I told you so", the joy in my heart is almost too much to contain. When you moan about the drama over simple silly things, I recollect my own years enduring sob fests over Cabbage Patch dolls. And when you lament that your children treat you like you are stupid, I wonder, "when was it that she realized that I am smart?"

When you call to tell me about your child wanting you to wait to talk to her "until I finish this chapter", I can't help it, I laugh out loud at your consternation. There were years that I couldn't get your attention because you were buried in Nancy Drew.

You, my dear, are paying for your raising. You, no doubt, tell your children "Because I say so" and that if they're going to cry "you'll give them a reason to", despite telling me that BOTH of those sayings were STEWPID and that you would NEVEAH say them to your children.

What goes around, comes around. One day, you'll think it's funny when it happens to them. Until then, have a glass of wine and call your mother.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Googling Down Memory Lane

Do you love it or hate it? An open letter to your child’s latest obsession.  This was the writing prompt from Mama Kat's Writers Workshop that began this little post:

Dear Google Maps:
You became an all-out obsession in my house today.  I know that technically the obsession is supposed to belong to one of my children, and my nephew isn't really mine, but he's living here for the summer, and that's close enough, right?

For some reason Handsome decided to look on the local weather web site's map to see if he could find the house.  After finding that very unsatisfactory, I decided to show him Google maps.  Apparently, that was a terrible idea.  We looked at satellite images of my house, his mom's house, and grandma's house before we discovered street view, and then, it was all over!

We looked at the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, "walked" across the Golden Gate Bridge, saw Times Square, the Empire State Building, Big Ben and more.  And then I went to fix dinner, and I have NO idea where all Handsome "travelled" with you, but I know that it was a "safe site", so it was fine, except....

Well, he's not the only one who's obsessed.  He's been in bed for at least an hour now, and here I sit, happily clicking away, looking at the street view of old neighborhoods from my past, cultural sites I'd love to visit and generally wandering around the world, one street view at a time.

I hope our his obsession passes quickly, so that we he can get back to appreciating the world around us him.  Could you please quit being so darn fascinating, please? It would really help us him out.

Auntie Bad Example

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Who's Driving this Thing?

My grandparents always had a little John Deere mower and all of the grandkids rode it and drove it and generally thought it was the best thing ever. Occasionally, however, it bit us in the butt. One time in particular, my two younger siblings and I wanted to drive the tractor. The adults (my grandparents, parent and the next door great aunt and uncle) were sitting in the back yard in lawn chairs, enjoying the evening air, so they consented to let us ride together. I sat in the seat, along with my sister, who is three years younger than I am, and our brother, who is a full 7.5 years younger than me, sat on one of the wheel covers, and we ALL held on to the steering wheel. In retrospect, that was a bad plan. I had my feet on the pedal, there was just one, you pushed it to stop and let out to go, and I let up and off we went. Along the way, we got into an argument about which way to go, sister and brother wanted to go around both houses, while I want to go between the houses. A struggle ensued over the steering wheel and the result was a crash into the purple flox growing in the side flowerbed of my great aunt and uncle's house. The adults all thought it was pretty funny, except my parents, who were horrified at their offspring's behavior. Tractor riding was DONE for that visit, to say the least!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Changing Channels

So everyone else over at Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop seemed to have so much fun with this list, I just had to join in!  Here is my list of 10 shows I'd love to see come back and why, in no particular order:
Full House
1.  Full House - made practically everyone else's list too.  I can still hear the theme song playing in my head.  I loved Uncle Jesse and Becky was soooo cool, plus Kimmy cracked me up.
2.  Everybody Loves Raymond.  This family makes me laugh!  Partly because they are so weird, I mean, really - Robert and the whole touching food to his chin?  And partly because they are so relate-able - being in-laws is HARD!  (Favorite Moment:  Marie:  I am NOT just a trophy wife!  Frank:  What contest in Hell did I win?)
Frasier: The Complete First Season
3.  Frasier - I don't really miss Cheers, I didn't watch it too much, but the writing on Frasier was sooo funny, and I LOVED the storyline with Niles being in love with Daphne for so long.
4.  Family Matters - Urkel was annoying and funny all at the same time, a very hard combination to pull off.  I wanted to be just like Laura.  Felt a little odd, wanting to be a Winslow, seeing as I'm, not African-American...

5.  The Cosby Show - The parents were funny, the kids were cool and there was singing and dancing sometimes.  I actually love it MORE as an adult, because I can relate to the frustrations of parenting and dieting (poor Cliff, never getting to eat a sandwich!)
Doogie Howser, M.D.
6.  Doogie Howser, M.D. - He was cute (still is) and successful and my age, so what was not to love?
"Who's the Boss?"
7.  Who's The Boss?  I loved bossy Angela, thought Tony was cute and was rooting for them to get together from the very first episode.
Growing Pains
8.  Growing Pains - Mike was so cute, Carol was just soooo relate able and Leonardo DiCaprio was on it for just a little bit.
Still of Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker in Perfect Strangers
9.  Perfect Stranger - Balki was funny.  Period.
Family Ties Online
10.  Family Ties - the awesome artist's rendition of the family as the opening, plus Mallory and Alex sparring was awesome.  And you just gotta love anything with Michael J. Fox!

There you are, my list - what would be on your list?

Friday, July 8, 2011


What is your definition of luxury?
  • Egyptian cotton sheets?
  • Huge flat screen TV?
  • Room service?
  • Champagne and caviar?
  • A limousine and chauffeur?
  • A maid to dust, iron and clean the ceiling fan blades?
  • Fillet Mignon?
  • Shiatsu massage?
Today, mine is this - sitting on the floor at my church's gym while the kids are gloriously occupied with skating to write in my notebook for a (mostly) uninterrupted 45 minutes!  Oh, the bliss!  Carving out little niches of time to write is difficult, much less a big chunk like this.  So they're busy with skating, either speeding back and forth perfecting their skills or just learning to make their way, wobbling around the floor.  And I, pen in hand, curl up with my notebook to write, say and dream whatever I want.

So, what's your idea of luxury?  (And if you are giving away anything from the list, send some my way, OK?)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Independence vs. Community

In early July the word "independence" gets thrown around a lot. Now, I'm a BIG fan of not being a British colony, and I appreciate our freedoms as a nation, but lately, I've been thinking a bit differently about the whole concept of personal independence.

As Americans, we're raised on the idea of the "independent spirit", told to grown up to be "strong, independent women" and the "Do-It-Yourself" culture has thousands of devotees, and I think we really believe  that independence is good.  But is it?

Does our independence make us lonely?  Does our insistence that we can do it ourselves mean that we never accept any one's offer of help?  Is "independence" just another word for "pride"?  Is it the way we keep others from seeing our flaws and making ourselves vulnerable?  When we die, will we think "I wish I'd been more independent?"  Or will we want a community of friends, family and loved ones by our side?

Having been raised in a family that would politely be described as quiet, and possibly more accurately as anti-social or eve hermetic, the whole development of a personal community is tough for me (even with the built in social structure of 95 in-laws!).  I would be the last to bemoan the fact that neighbors don't talk over the fence anymore.  Reaching out and accepting help is foreign and receiving advice and constructive criticism is unheard of.  And who am I hurting with my self-imposed, all-important independence?  Mostly me.

I cut myself off from those who know more and shut out opportunities to learn when I refuse to ask for help, or even accept offered help.  I miss out on a chance to make someone better of myself when I angrily draw myself up instead of trying to see myself through someone else's eyes.

Community, of course, isn't just one sided.  I could help others learn things.  I could tell people parts of my journey to encourage them on their way, and they could be better for it.

Depending on others to help me become better, and possibly help someone too might not be such a bad idea.  Today is my Declaration of Dependence - I can't do this alone - becoming better will take all of us!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ugh, Editing

Being kind of new to the whole blogging thing, I've discovered that editing may be a never ending process for me.  The previous post (about my grandmother) was SO hard for me to write, I cried, drank a big glass of wine, cried some more, and wrote and re-wrote.  I published it accidentally, before I thought it was ready, and now I find that every time I look at it, I am wanting to change it.  It seems so incomplete, so unfinished, so inadequate to try to capture what she mean to me.  If I ever completely convey what I am wanting to say, I may stop writing entirely, because THAT would be an accomplishment.  I'll keep trying!

Friday, July 1, 2011


Is "homesick" a weird word to use how you feel after someone dies? Probably. But, today, in my life, it is true anyhow.

My dad served in the Air Force for the first 16 years of my life, so we moved around a good bit. By Air Force standards, it really wasn't too bad, we only moved in the summer, so we didn't miss school and I had only lived in 4 states and overseas twice by my Junior year of high school. And, I thought it was normal. All my friends were air force kids too, so it wasn't a big deal. We even had a cross-stitch picture on the wall that said "Home is where the Air Force Sends you". So. home was where I was, kind of. But I had another "home" too, in the person of my dad's mom, Grammy.

My Grammy and Grampy lived in the same pinkish brick, tile roofed house my whole life and their home was where I spend almost every vacation growing up, where we lived while we awaited temporary housing and was my "dorm" during my college years. Being with them was comfortable, familiar and gave me a sense of consistency. But their home, as much as I love it, wasn't "home" as much as they were.

Both of my grandparents were amazing people. Growing up, I thought they could do no wrong. There is an old country song, "He Walked on Water" by Randy Travis and I believed it was written all about Grampy. He's been gone now since 1997. He was there for my college graduation, smiling as proud as if it was his diploma, but he was gone shortly after that.

When the cancer took him, I really wasn't sure that my Grammy would make it. I guess I had forgotten how strong she always was. She lasted for nearly 15 years without him by her side, most of that time in her own home. "All my memories are here", she'd say, and "it all reminds me of him". They had made thousands of memories together, for over 50 years, they'd lived their lives together. Some of their memories were hard ones too, the loss of their parents, the suicide of a granddaughter, their son's two divorces, but through it all they had each other. It was hard for her when he was gone.

She was, I think, the strongest woman I have ever known. She grew up dirt poor. She was the oldest child of only five and frequently had to work to help support the family. She told stories of her father arguing that she should be paid a full "man's wage" for picking cotton, since she could pick as well as any man. She hunted and gardened and, at least once, was hired out as a domestic servant to help feed her family. When she met and married my Grampy, she was able to escape the life of such hard labor. She often said "Marrying him is the best thing that ever happened to me", but that had more to do with loving him than escaping hardship.

I think that one of the main reasons that she helped me feel so rooted was that she didn't ever try to bind me to her. Her mother had been an angry, controlling woman, who frequently used guilt to get her children to come see her or do what she thought they should. But Grammy was the complete opposite. She made up her mind that she wasn't going to be that way, and wasn't. She often commented that she wanted her children and grandchildren to come see her when and if they could. She never made me feel guilty if it had been a while, and was as happy to see me if it had been 4 hours as if it had been much, much longer. It was really amazing to feel that the relationship was built on mutual adoration, not a familial obligation.

Going to see her was always so fun, partly just because I could eat whatever I wanted! She was an amazing cook, and I am extremely proud that I can make a chocolate pie she'd be proud of, passable cream puffs and excellent empanadas. All from her recipes, and all from seeing her do it, hundreds and hundreds of times. Maybe one day I'll master fried okra. I'd wake up in the morning and she'd ask what I wanted for breakfast, and for a number of years was able to eat what she called "a bull's breakfast", which usually meant I'd eaten nearly my body weight in eggs, sausage and toast. By the end of breakfast, she had supper planned and lunch was just whatever was in the fridge, but in between meals, oh the glory! We'd make teacakes, or angel food cake, or jellies from the fruits of Grampy's garden, or just get an ice cream sandwich from the certain spot in the deep freeze!

She had a way of making everyone feel so welcomed and accepted with her. I grew up knowing, beyond any doubt, that I was loved. She used to say "I don't have a favorite, but you are kinda special." I loved that, and believed it. It was years before I finally realized that she said that to all of us, and meant it every single time. I may not have been her favorite, but SHE was someone special, and she will be terribly missed.